Innovating with ancient grains
A first-of-its-kind project is uniting a Native American tribe, the culinary community and conservation-minded nonprofits to develop and market a farming innovation that will support indigenous food culture, keep more water in the Verde River and, hopefully, inspire other farmers to follow suit. With the Trust’s investment, The Nature Conservancy, Yavapai-Apache Nation and Grain R&D are collaborating to convert the tribe’s farm along the Verde River to small grain crops – such as ancient varieties of wheat, barley and rye – that require up to 50% less water than traditional crops. Grain R&D, a craft grain enterprise based in Queen Creek, is guiding the grain process from seed selection, cultivation and harvest, to end-use collaboration with brewers, distillers, bakers and chefs. The organizations together are refining the Nation’s farming practices to suit the new crops and minimize water consumption. Pegged to be a demonstration project, the Trust and TNC hope success here will spur more market-driven and water-wise projects along the Verde.